There was a moment on Tuesday morning in Yosemite when we crossed the line from being good parents to being badass parents or possibly just bad parents. In my mind, it was when the paved road stopped and the dirt road began. We were trying to find a trailhead and the dirt road seemed reasonable especially given the four-wheel drive vehicle we were driving. The real turning point may have been the wrong turn ahead. The guidebook we were using was, in retrospect, written before the second “road” was built. This first attempt landed us at the edge of a strip of concrete covered with a waterfall. Pretty, but not passable. After turning around on the very steep and narrow patch of dirt just before the certain doom falls, I did have thoughts about scrapping the entire thing but I guess that is what Rob is for. To push me to do something, even when I am scared, because it could be amazing. I’m pretty sure that’s how we ended up with three kids instead of just one. We finally made it to the trailhead traversing rutted muddy paths and snow. To say that we were the only ones around is not quite correct. There were at least two people at a campsite visible from the trailhead but they didn’t seem like the kind of people who wanted company so we passed without a word. We headed off into the trees with purpose. We were seeking something special, something amazing. As we walked, we joked about the children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt. It was funny until we noticed some animal prints in the snow. No, they weren’t bear prints…..mountain lion. We tightened up the group and walked on. The next patch of snow brought us to the bear prints. I understand that most reasonable people probably would have turned around at this point but we were so close that we were compelled to continue. A few jokes about bears and we were at our destination. We turned a corner, looked up and in front of us was the most amazing tree I have ever seen. It is called bull buck. It is the second largest tree in the world. Now, to be fair, I am a big fan of even the most ordinary tree. I am easily impressed, but this creature would give a lumberjack pause. You have to stand hundreds of feet away just to take a picture of it. It is awe-inspiring.
There is a wonderful concept in Hasidic tradition that expresses the idea of balance. “Keep two pieces of paper in your pockets at all times. On one write, ‘I am a speck of dust.’ On the other, “The world was created for me.'” Staring up at that massive tree I truly understood this edict. The tree was roughly 2700 years old. It had been alive for the entirety of man’s modern history. Every human I had ever known or read about was alive during it’s reign of the forest. It’s size and status completely dwarfed even the most productive human let alone me. I was completely humbled. Yet…..yet, there was the unmistakable feeling that this tree was planted 2700 years ago but an unseen hand just so I could gaze upon it on a Tuesday morning in April and feel loved. That probably sounds crazy but that is, in a nutshell, the feeling of divine love I felt while taking in the sight of bull buck.
The largeness and longevity of such a creature puts things into lovely perspective. What am I going to make for dinner tonight seems like a laughable question in the face of such a creature yet this question torments me on a near daily basis. Complaints about bad drivers and coworkers, perceived slights and kids schedules all pale in the face of bull buck. These things seem to bounce from him and disappear fulfilling their own insignificance. Even a big thing like, my daughter had cancer last summer didn’t stick to him, though it didn’t bounce either. Instead, bull buck seemed to absorb it as if to say don’t worry I got this one. Mixed in with the 2700 years of witnessed sorrows and joys it felt like a good place to leave it.
As we turned around to head back to the car I felt lighter. Though we still had mountain lion, bear tracks, snow, and rutted paths to cross before we reached the road, the worst felt behind us. Sharing worry and sorrow with a 2700 year old tree might not be for everyone, but if you find yourself on this path in the woods one day, I highly recommend it.
This captures so much of what I feel when I look out to the ocean – so very small but so much a part of something so much bigger. We are not insigificant, but we would be nothing without those who came before. All of us are here for only a blink in time, still take anyone out of that sequence and the world would be forever changed.
It gives me peace to know that what has come before me dwarfs my time here, just as it will dwarf what will come after me. And my peace comes because whether it is a plan or simply divine, I see God’s hand in it.